DANGER

Don’t watch the World News anymore. It’s not the news of the world, but rather a sad commentary of Trumpism. You will hear nothing about Aleppo, the West Bank, Puerto Rico, Africa, China—most of the map you study before elusive sleep. Instead, you will be apprised of the mauling of women, mass shootings with legal military weapons, terrorism via suicide and non-suicide bombs [pressure cookers cooked up in cyberspace I-want-to-be-a-terrorist school], corrupt voting, police brutality, domestic violence, and the like. Don’t write about your own maulings. There are too many already, and why relive? You just told one person, and that is enough [for now].

Don’t write about the diseases that plague your aging, degenerating body. No one wants to hear. It’s depressing. Laugh more. Set the precedent. Don’t look at your hands, your feet, your long-term goals.

Try not to freak out when the car behind you is practically up your trunk. How would you afford a replacement car at this point—get to work? Explain to your mother about another car crash? When your poor-people health insurance won’t give you any emergency anxiety medicine—lumping you in that category of misuse, abuse, unnecessary compromise?

Relax, it’s not that bad. Rethink your inability to practice yoga, meditate. When the road splits up ahead, take the right lane, the high road; flip him off nonchalantly. Pay attention to the cars ahead and the cars coming at you with their too-bright headlights in the too-dark road in a town that could afford streetlights with the taxes people pay. Pay attention, but imagine something different: flowers, pizza, your dog, your niece, your lovely house, your kind neighbor, the soft cloud-cover protecting star.

Don’t feel bad about the loneliness. It touches many, seeps into the bones of consciousness. Another could help pay the bills but is no guarantee of a get-out-of-jail-free card. Romanticize yourself instead, your ability to stretch out and make noise in the House, leave all the dishes in the sink, pocket plastic cutlery from the gas station of pajamas, donuts, and frozen food; dust the soles of your feet off before you go to bed with books, notebooks, and magazines.

It’s not that bad. When you run out of heating oil, build a fire. Burn all your old diaries, the love-letter lies, all the newspapers your mother gives you. When the skies turn ominous, head for the cellar and hang with the ghosts. Be gentle with them. They are skittish like you. If you can’t make it to the cellar in time, go to the bathtub if in the back of the house; the chimney opening if in the front. Pray. It can’t hurt.

When sleep hides from you because your focus is too immense, listen to music, YouTube the ocean, torrential rain [but try and forget about the faulty gutter at the corner of the bedroom]. Don’t watch TV. There is too much you can’t afford to buy. There is too much you can’t afford to think about. Let the dog love on you. Repeat his name with your hands on his delicate face, velvet ears. Remember your lost father’s voice, the last thing he said.

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IN MEMORY OF MY HANDS 2, or TINY COFFINS

I miss you so much in the future already. My Archives of the Future. See H for House [of Being], hands, handiwork, hardship, unhandy, handless, hurt, holy, he, him, hearsay, human, holding, hope, honor, Henryk, hatching, etc.

It’s been a bad winter for us so far in the bitter cold wind-chill—for you and your partner, odd toes—all ten of you gone purple [gone quiet], numb, thickened pads, and an infection to boot. The middle finger [given to the gods] x-rayed with right hand. Stay composed, stay quiet—not birds in flight when I speak; rest. The antibiotics are promised to remove the swelling in another day or two. And if not, an infusion for you that will benefit the entire body. Maybe.

I try not to hold it against you when you drop everything, such as pens, notebooks, the cat treats, glasses of water, the dishes–and then the torso [core] too pained to pick any of it up. The broom has a new use—and the new one with the dustpan attached. I bought cheetah print and another in zebra for the back of the House—to cheer us all up. And I find the sweeping soothing—like driving or cleaning—before the dirt diseased us.

The new, charcoal gloves I bought you—we will sport them tomorrow with the new, insulated velvet boot socks [also gray and with tassels!] The leather ones from last year have given up their other halves, no long pairs, and I’ll no longer embarrass you with mismatched colors when driving—because they’re no longer warm enough—and you’re better than that.

Also purchased—a new set of thick, multi-colored Sharp Mark, permanent pens—18 colors [cheaper than Sharpie, and we have been using the debit card a lot lately, as you know–buying presents for the family and us, of course. We deserve it. It’s been a tough year since the car crash, but we must write out these secrets in thick teal, plum, and dark umber ink that seeps through to the second page—in large handwriting so that I can later read. No one else has to see the illegible loopiness. It’s embarrassing for all of us. I know. We must hold our cards to the chest as much as possible so as not to bum anybody out.

I also purchased your coffins online today–made of olive wood, sanded smooth—with a lining of white velvet. I know your purple will be more pronounced, but I refuse black—and the flowers and ribbons will be apple/pear green orchids and golden tulle. When you have become ghosts of the House, I shall dig you up for the autopsy—for the new generation of doctors to figure out what went bad and how to save your future brothers and sisters. I’m sorry it has all come to this. Gnarled and puffed up, you are still elegant, strong—and I will remember you fondly this way.

 

 

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BURNISHING[S]

Logic follows    everyone

fallen    [not an anchor] yesterday

 

lifted   empty turrets

stone home                 seeing the breath

dreaming the luncheon

pulled from dizzy

 

A [re]presentation that would not be understood

applauded, hollow.

 

*

 

The smallest pieces carry the formula

I am hungry, he is lost

what I thought has no perpendicular

hinge  to hang out those fabrics

that need to be cleansed

they are just color.

 

*

 

The one gone looking for the open field

 

choked

by a sentence that would not end

explain, offer rules, parallel

equations of tiny-hoop consolation

to predict, conspire, deepen.

 

What could not be said      at the same time

The way it happened

erased the forest

threw away the riffraff

shying away

falling fast[er] [after].

 

 

The arched-back

horror       shape

of an hour

of     dread

 

 

*

 

Then slows

opens s[wal]lows

then to beg[in]

[the]n.

 

That music didn’t go anywhere

that hour didn’t begin

 

Everyone told to forget the execution

of the one who could not remember

the fields without

moving trees.

 

*

 

The tests show

the sickness

 

why you haven’t measured [up] properly

 

ripped on too-high speed

un-       like                  imagined

the center of the spine

[to][me]

 

insect that cannot

roll over

 

A blank screen

 

blanket of worn-out [to]ys.

 

*

 

The chaos        underneath

invented, superimposed, extracted,

hung up   bracelet of  murky stream

 

multiple choice

unwritten        when

that waking

across the street

a handmade ripped pinwheel.

 

*

 

The library books piled on the floor

mathematical      induction

reduction

do not open the equation

be prepared to jump in           [the mass grave]

the remnants collapse

into abstract

 

a map of essences

[not a chore].

 

*

 

Violins in the wall[s]

 

conspire[d] long

cleaning

the horizon

of fatigue

re-spinning

circles on the floor

broken    motif[-idea]s.

[token]

 

*

 

The keeping on        reinvented

 

the tools    needing to be re-conceptualized

into new tools

 

the building lying

down

 

for dwelling     yet flying

 

a construction that moves

that hillside tide of __________ [gratitude]

 

*

 

The stairs led to strange plateaus

 

In each corner of the maze

I read of your affliction

at some sure corridor

point    weigh station

how buoyant    the bones.

 

The latch rusted and creeking

smashing the teeth repeated

[suffering] seeping through

punched-out holes

gashed shoulders

shadows [of ] being  just [dust-light].

 

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CODA OF RAIN

The sea thistle later this year than last—a reminder of how summer can stall—free falling cold and rain—falling in strings of days longer than could be accounted for—standing there by the rusted gutter in back—wondering about it all.

Daylight falls missing; its light tipping somewhere else, like Mongolia or Australia–away from us, so subtly. Track the increments; measure the sundial for tomorrow’s tomorrow [if a surfeit of energy or time]—when the sun glare will shock the eyes once again, even under sunglasses—while you fetch the mail or the dog while avoiding the chitchat of neighbors.

Account carefully for everything missing: the car rental and safety deposit key, the left strap of your favorite sandals, the prescription renewed the day before last, the dog’s heart worm pills, the second half of the manuscript, the shutters for the luminous storm.

Sweep the china and glass dropped during lightning—into the treasure chest of useless pieces [that could cut–if stepped on or handled improperly]–charting the negative space around confidence, resolve, beliefs [that everything does not matter equally; that everything gets better].

People will still suffer in beautiful patina Houses [cages] that rust in the rain. They dig out  so savagely—out of the elaborate labyrinths of their own melancholies.

Write this hour– in the Dictionary of Sadness, Handbook for Fatigue, Diary of Mercurial Wanderings–the Notebook of Promises to Oneself, Notebook of Modified Contingencies, Notebook of Intensities, Coda of Rain.

Chart with the most reliable instruments of travel–how long until the hour erases itself, the summer rain evaporates, all the keys go missing from the piano, the dog stops chasing its tail?

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In Memory of My Hands, or The New Ghosts in the House

You were beauties back in the day. Some would have said graceful, especially in your mother’s black velvet gloves up to the biceps (also slender then) with a million black pearl buttons. I know, you couldn’t even button one now. It’s okay. You had a good run, and it’s not over yet.

I want to remember you with a paintbrush balanced between right thumb and index finger—all those horses you painted and scenes of light on sea water. How you used to point at things as a small girl. “What that, Tata” “That?” “Over there?” “Here, Tata?” Why, sky? Why, river?

Fondly– I shall always remember you both flying so frenetically across the keyboard into all hours of night and daylight. Elegant birds alighting from the tallest pines, finding cloud and sky. At your own piano. The pads of your tips so different back then at the keys and holes of clarinet and oboe. You could feel heat and didn’t get cut up so much and turn white in the cold. Not to mention all of those pens. Your cursive –the envy of your Catholic school peers. “A+” on every composition for handwriting and content. Now, the ink a tangle of loopy, foreign language—I can’t even read. I don’t hold it against you, please know. I just miss you both so much. And this has hardly begun.

You used to carry the most fragile things, stacked up antique china and glass, with such strength and so gingerly, quickly, moving things always from place to place in the House—rearranging everything for me so I could stay on track, focused, not drown.

You were adept at donning necklaces and applying makeup for battle. Please believe you will always be integral to my warrior name. You were so strong, muscular, gentle. You could pull the most tenacious weeds out from the patio pavers and even from the cracks in the driveway without any tools. I loved that about you. And yet your delicate, fluent shadow puppets entertained cities of children for decades. All of the long hair you French-braided for them. Learning to knit, sew, embroider, quilt, and crochet with your mother. Your gesticulations also– were exquisite–pure ballet–accompanying me even when I spoke, carrying me. It was a language all your own. The cello grew to love you as much as I do—even now.

When you can no longer hold paintbrushes and glass without your grasp opening to shatter—and fallen items on the floor I can no longer bend down to pick up–I have a plan in place. You mustn’t worry. I will put you out of your misery. A hand-made small coffin for left and right lined with the blackest velvet of raven wing. I shall bury you under the largest pines and visit you at night. Do not be afraid. The two dogs buried back there, three cats, one rabbit, one blue jay, two sparrows, two robins, one owl, and one possum—shall keep you company when I’m in the House—missing you.

In time, you too, will wander back in the House through the cellar with Rita, her husband, and my father. Yes, we had a good run. And it’s not over yet. This chapter has just begun—though its pages fly faster than I am able to fathom–or believe.

 

 

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night gardening

The rain found us in warm early winter near the night garden—sitting in the doorway-frame— hearing, not each other—but only rain. Until she, as I begged her—came to reclaim my wild-river hair, cleanse my face of contamination of days gone by—and finally: erase me again.

It’s so much easier this way—without the time stamp, paperwork, and passwords I can’t remember—without the delay of another’s footfall, notebook of demands. The Christmas tree and Prince of Poetry did not love me—as perfectly as needed: a collaboration [tennis game] of pure poetry.

Without even a note–I left him at the train tracks. Yes, how impulsive and rude of me–but I could not articulate my need of night travel, stay with my suitcase of unfinished poems.

I gathered the rusted tools of my grandmother and set to work before dawn, who once again like magic clockwork, would climb the dark trellis of the horizon, lift all the secrets of the fallen kale and lettuce seeds, dahlia and geranium tubers, peony roots;

all the dead growth with my misshapen hand, I would snap off—the brown paper florets of the once-limelight hydrangea, the frost-nipped phlox, the barren butterfly trees. It is often difficult to differentiate the living from the dead; the latter holding the former down, begging for company.

From the distance of the neighbor’s property, the owl punctuated rain with its own articulation of night. I shed my bulky sweater before I climbed the dog fence and privacy wall–to peer over into someone else’s world—where I learned the loneliness of scholars, philosophers, and widows.

If you are looking for me, wait patiently. Leave the tray of coffee and crumpets with my mother’s apricot jam. I am smoking my grandfather’s pipe–wrestling my night thoughts, intense emotions that flood and fill with a music of follow; a wave that is dangerous and sublime.

Spit out in another realm, I am finishing all the poems before the hourglass loses its silk, and the clocks in my House give up their hands.

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ORPHEUS BY THE SEA, or THE UNDERBELLY OF LOVE

THE UNDERBELLY OF LOVE
Mark Savage

 

I left the House in the rain that erased me.

That’s why you can’t see me anymore. Why you gaze at the curvature of earth to catch a longed-for sight of the gray ship you dreamed you glimpsed– that took and left me bereft at this shore—where perhaps I may be saved. I don’t know.

The shipwreck, I shall tell you in confidence, delivered me back to the waves and the salt that would dry my skin in the burnishing sun.

I am so very sad and so very sorry that you miss me so much. But you no longer have to witness how I carry my disfigured heart, my raging heart pumping outside of me, a broken fist from a violent fight [with myself] again– in my rough, cut-up, calloused hands across the galaxy.

No one told me any of this.

No one wrote these words in the parchment pages of a sage tome to place on the classical column as offering for banished gods [that still weep for us and all that we have regrettably done [to them and to each other]]–

somewhere we are sure as the dust of my travels, the dust in my bleary eyes, my hanging mouth, my large lungs/ribcage; my broken lips, parched.

 

The ship’s pilot’s sextant and charts had been destroyed by the fire of which I cannot speak. Its dragon flames, hi-lighter and goldfish orange, brilliant—pulled language inside out from me. The pilot mumbled about fractured stars while he looked past the night. His fear palpable to me though he hid his face when he gently covered me, like my father would, with a velvet purple blanket. I felt like royalty. I can’t explain properly, but I am intensely [unfathomably] grateful.

I slept in softness in the calm before my birth before anyone knew me, asked of me. Except the shattered gods [because they would not help us when we called them to intervene, lessen the unbearable pain] that had thrown me down on the floor of the ship to smash my ________________; tear at my fatigue, my dress of cashmere [a gift before I was poor].

 

 

When I woke, the sun was climbing the sea’s horizon. There was sand in my mouth and pale turquoise sea glass. I don’t recall how any of it happened or how you should attempt to bring me back, find me.

It was deathly quiet on the island [and I couldn’t help but think of my death]–where the ghost ship brought me while I wept on the bow:

dreaming of my lost father; lost from my mother, brother, and me; lost from his lungs, lost from ________________;

and fallen emerald trees filtering late autumn light with my dog [with broken hips and strong heart] put down under the mammoth red maple tree–where the needles, one at a time [while I looked away] found the appropriate veins.

 

Yes, it is very quiet here. The quiet of one gone deaf after one could hear. An emptiness without music or resounding church bells, another’s voice soothing the pumping heart, dilapidated– extracted for a funeral pyre.

It is too hard to keep it, to feed it, to leave it alone outside my bruised sternum — thumping like a semi-crushed bird before it surrenders its feathers, over and over [echoes]–nothing real.

Days have shrunk into themselves, folded, laid down their awkward cards. The hours have become very small.

Night is now a dress I wear; its sleeves stitched through my skin and its secrets.

 

Yes, I had awakened from my underwater-maelstrom-tango with chaos’ sharpened whalebone teeth set at my own piano-wired jawline [the gods had done this to me]. Slimy seaweed on a spectrum from black to moss green knotted my wild hair–

and still-sharp sea-glass slicing my ever-moving, muscular hands that longed to sculpt tangible things that would sing the Sirens’ haunting atonal/melody riffs and shattered human narratives back to me–

that would pull me into the underbelly of love where I would no longer recognize myself– just a swirl of murky ink in the sea, lost from the other [beloved]–-

Orpheus, Orpheus. I cannot hear your glass lyre in the storm of the sea where bruised humans play shipwreck bumper cars—to act out, do something, hurt someone, feel something, know something, sing something, play something —

I am here now on this shore of softest pulverized pearl sands, prostrate with my face up to opening clouds of sky– waiting for Thee. Come. The hours before sunrise stretch out and swallow me. They are long, and I wait for the emptiness to resurrect itself, spin me once again, sublime.

Play the notes of my ribs broken in the shipwreck, O my Orpheus—my whalebone corset splintered into my torso where I bleed out — in Time– in your music that unfolds me into sea into sky into the lies I had to tell to keep my fragile sanity while those around me schemed to sell the country, drown my poetic lines that never end into a sea that never ends into a love that never ends with any certainty though with certain certainty will surely die.

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THE FEAST, or I ATE THE HOUSE AGAIN

I was ravenous. Insatiably so. So I ate the House again. The cedar shakes, warped shutters. Then the window and screens—spitting out glass.

The doors gave me piercing cramps, but I soldiered on. Eating the sandpaper roof shingles. Smiling with bits of chimney bricks in my cracked teeth—when the neighbors sauntered in; their mouths agape with shock or panic.

I devoured the living room next. The white sofa was especially delicious. I would no longer have to brush it clean with Woolite this weekend.

Then I attacked the kitchen. Greedily consumed the Fiesta ware that does not chip. Its saffron orange, peacock blue, eggshell white–and aubergine of particular note.

I ate the master bedroom furniture next. The antique poster frame bequeathed to me. All the Pollocks, a Klimt, a Cornell wooden box with straw, a doll and a globe; a light green and eggshell Rothko. The staring Mona Lisa. So there.

I sat in the rubble almost satiated—patting my burgeoning stomach. There was more work to do outside.

I ate the trees–starting with the dark maple, then the oaks, then poplar, hemlock, chestnut, hickory–and started weeping—not just for myself but for the plump robins, the annoying catbird even, yellow finches, woodpecker, pair of cardinals [male and female, of course], the nasty blue jays that swoop and take more than their share at the feeder [the bullies of the bird world that send the usually-fearless squirrels away]–

and my owl who seems to be writing a poem every night, just a few short-lined stanzas really, in hours of darkness, never at the same time [like the neighbor’s rooster that sleeps in ’til lunch or when the kids skip down the hill from the school bus or right before dinner time [eliciting chuckles at the table where the children have forgone their gadgets reluctantly–forced to speak, answer questions that pry, interrupt their magical adult-free world of friends and such].

My owl at the periphery of the property in the tallest pine that sways a bit in the wind  enough to make me more nervous than usual [its sister had fallen in its arms during torrential rains and wind gusts that August. I heard echoing gunshots, I thought, that paralyzed me into night’s heavy arms, cradled back somehow into dream–only to discover the next day when I drew enough courage to find, behind the row of wildly-overgrown forsythia, her thick arms snapped down].

Hawks alighted to the next-door neighbor’s tallest pines and witnessed the continuation of my feast–the crunching of the patio furniture that had rusted underneath three feet of winter snow. Half-heartedly, I ate the dog’s fence while he and the cat watched in disbelief.

I overcame my cruel impulse to devour the said menagerie of jumpy birds–their sanctuaries of wooden feeders, their new terracotta bath, their weathered houses, some with intricate, abandoned beehives; the triad of pink plastic flamingos that I’m sure the neighbors found tacky, a perhaps-true-fact, which I secretly enjoyed.

I knew that tomorrow I would wake very early from troubling dream patterns of avalanche and hurricane, I am sure, because of severe indigestion–my roiling viscera

to collect the sharpest sea glass in shades of lightest blues and greens, frosted white–that I had stolen from shores of sleepwalking–and string them on a necklace to keep the ghosts of the property at bay.

I would wait all through the morning hours, afternoon, and night–with the utmost patience this time–for my owl to starts singing his poem before removing the odd necklace–and bury it in the woods far from me.

I would make a pilgrimage to the priest, remove my shoes, and tell him everything. Of the sorrow tangled in my sea hair, my desire, at times, for unification.

When I return, I shall rewrite other possible endings that will begin.

 

All of this confuses me.

 

 

 

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PAINTING THE RAIN

PAINTING THE RAIN
Mark Savage
digital art
©2017

 

I left my assortment of pens and markers in the rain again. Now everything I write and touch is softer, more fluid, more beautiful, less defined.

 

The things I painstakingly named of late have already become something else—defying porous borders: the wrought iron fences, brick and stone ones in the garden, the chain-linked fence the dog dug himself out under during the fireworks.

 

No, the things and objects and ideas in arrangement set to wind and bird music—will not still as I try to paint them this morning—fill all the gaping holes that stretched and grew in the night with ink, fastidious name-defying colors I mixed before my coffee, before both feet landed back in this world.

 

I could cry in my coffee, but what would that do? Merely dilute it with water and salt from which we crystallized.

 

When I am better and my body aches less excruciatingly, when I am better at everything—a better painter, a better cellist, a better citizen, a better daughter, a better gardener, a better friend, a better human—I shall pilgrimage to the sea

 

and sing of all my wanderings—free the instruments of my destruction in the dustbin nearest the dunes and their sharpest blades of silver-green, silver-blue, blue-green.

 

If you happen to see me there in the earliest morning hours of magical sunlight, be very very quiet. I have become quite skittish like the dog as if I, too, have been left outside in the rain too long.

 

 

 

 

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LIFELINE[S]

The oak leaves have relinquished to wind—into piles of odd, crinkled hands of some creature that has multiplied our paths. We walk through them, crunching the brown ones to know we are here. After all that has happened. What no one should speak of. Maybe quietly. Maybe when all the dust has fallen out of your hair.

 

Your hair in the wind, a silver mane of wild horses that crowd the plains, invite ammunition, a thinning out. Look away, but it will still happen.

 

If you don’t brace for the cold, the wind can push you through new doorway frames. A perpendicular grounding, upright—a passageway. Hold your breath before you see it. The cold in our faces, in all we have become.

 

It happens to everyone. The proliferation of line items, to-do lists, paperwork, email, scheduling, bottom lines, rides to school, misplaced bills, food rotting in the frig, layers and layers of hurry, worry, grief, guilt, avalanche, quicksand, dread. Unnerving? Yes.

 

You should know that the ropes were tied intricately, reef knots I studied in a book nervously, before they were lowered into that chasm where you slipped from the rungs of your thinking–while wishing for less wind-throb heartache–that certain unpredictables would go away–the next day, day after, or next week. Worst case scenario, the pain would stop next year. Death, it undoes many.

 

The anchor didn’t stay lodged under the wall of stone sprouting milkweed and little bunnies.

 

Nor could anyone hear what anyone was saying, cooing, climb up, here near the sun-slant, sit behind the defunct train tracks, wash your hair, make those animal sounds you were making down there. It’s okay. We could all use a reminder.

 

Sideline coaching back to the plateau, specific directions to the stage where we all wait, often hiding, for things to grow again, soften nerve-rattled cores, quell the sparrows’ nervous jumpy shadows, cut ourselves some slack before we find our way out of the darkening forest of thinning trees. No, none of it is higher math. Well, maybe.

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